When southsider Bill Casida crosses County Line Road on Emerson Avenue — especially during rush hour — he knows what he will face: bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Casida, who has lived on the southside for more than 50 years, has watched Emerson Avenue develop from farmland into a heavily trafficked street lined by businesses and restaurants. He drives through the area several times a day, and wishes Indianapolis had done a better job of planning ahead and designing the road for future development, he said.

Emerson Avenue is unsafe during rush hour, especially for people who aren’t familiar with the area and its quirks that require drivers to change lanes at least a couple times between County Line Road and Southport Road just to keep going north or south. And if an ambulance or police car needs to get through, forget it.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Improvements to a 2-mile section of Emerson Avenue north of County Line Road are long overdue say local drivers. Now, Indianapolis, which is responsible for maintaining that stretch of Emerson Avenue, has gotten funding to improve a portion of it.

In about five years, the section of Emerson Avenue from Stop 11 Road to Southport Crossing Place — just south of Southport Road — will be reconstructed with more lanes, a median and sidewalks added to what is mostly a two-lane road. Similar improvements from County Line Road to Stop 11 Road are planned, but have not yet received funding.

About 22,500 vehicles drive through the stretch of Emerson Avenue, from County Line Road to Southport Road, which is mostly two lanes, often bottlenecking near businesses and busy intersections. By comparison, the stretch of Emerson Avenue in Greenwood, south of County Line Road has two lanes in each direction, a center turn lane and sidewalks.

The Indianapolis Public Works Department is planning $8.7 million in improvements from Stop 11 Road to Southport Crossing Place and has received funding a $6.4 million grant from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, Indianapolis Department of Public Works spokesperson Warren Stokes said.

Funding for similar work from County Line Road to Stop 11 Road will be requested again next year, with the earliest possible date for that project being 2023, Stokes said.

Indianapolis will begin creating plans for the road improvements between Stop 11 Road and Southport Crossing Place in 2018, with property purchases taking place in 2020 and 2021 and construction beginning in 2022. Outside of widening the road, the project includes adding sidewalks, turn lanes, drainage system improvements and replacing street signs and traffic signals, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The project won’t require any businesses or homes to be relocated, Stokes said.

Jesse Cochran and Heather Moore, who live on the southside, said they drive along Emerson Avenue about three times a week and often find themselves in backed-up in traffic.

Additional lanes would help clear up the road during busier hours, and make it easier for emergency vehicles to get through, Cochran said.

At Franciscan Health’s Indianapolis campus, located at the southeast corner of Emerson Avenue and Stop 11 Road, traffic issues are always a concern, spokesperson Joe Stuteville said.

Hospital officials warn their staff, visitors and patients to be careful when leaving or coming to the campus, he said.

Improvements to Emerson Avenue won’t be limited to the Indianapolis side. Greenwood is considering repairs and improvements as well.

South of County Line Road, proposed improvements to Emerson Avenue include a repaved surface, new median, trails and decorative traffic signals and signs from Main Street to County Line Road.

The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission approved paying a consultant $337,000 to create designs for the $3.5 million project, which is planned for next summer. The redevelopment commission would still need to approve funding the project.

At a glance

Emerson Avenue, north of County Line Road is set to be expanded in the future.

Where: Emerson Avenue, from Stop 11 Road to Southport Road

When: 2022

Cost: $8.7 million

What: Widening the road to add one lane in each direction as well as a center turn lane with sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Where: Emerson Avenue, from County Line Road to Stop 11 Road

When: As soon as 2023, if funding is approved

Cost: Unknown

What: Widening the road to add one lane in each direction as well as a center turn lane with sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.